Noisey Vs. MetalSucks: Sepultura’s Roots Belongs in the Ground
Welcome to Noisey Vs. MetalSucks, a bi-weekly column in which the staff of Noisey and the staff of MetalSucks will engage in vigorous academic debate concerning some of extreme music’s most relevant topics of the day. For this week’s edition, MetalSucks’ own Axl Rosenberg does battle with Noisey’s Jon Wiederhorn on Sepultura’s Roots: is it really masterpiece, or is it way overrated Read Vince’s position below, then head over to Noisey to check out Jon’s counter-argument. Enjoy!
Sepultura’s Roots isn’t the worst album ever made — it’s not even the worst Sepultura album ever made — but it is thoroughly mediocre, and I find the amount of praise it’s received over the years to be totally bizarre.
Let’s think about this album in the context of 1996: with nu-metal on the rise and everything else on the decline, bands were either making drastic changes to their sound (Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax), or sticking to their guns for better (Pantera) or less-than-better (Slayer, assert people who aren’t me). Sepultura chose the former path: they hired Ross Robinson, fresh off of producing Korn and the Phunk Junkeez (I’m not making that up) and just months away from helming Limp Bizkit’s execrable Three Dollar Bill, Y’all, and they made a nu-metal album, complete with guest appearances by Jonathan Davis, David Silveria, and DJ Lethal (and, to my dismay, one of the unwitting godfathers of nu-metal, Mike Patton). Fans of the album praised the band for their “artistic evolution,” and, above all, for the one element of Roots that’s genuinely original and interesting — the incorporation of musical elements indigenous to the band’s native Brazil. But that “artistic evolution” was really just trend-chasing, and a cameo by Carlinhos Brown does not a brilliant album make.
The fact that Roots was Sepultura’s final album with Max Cavalera has probably only added to fans’ sentimental view of the record. But that’s even sillier than run-of-the-mill sentimentality, because Roots is barely a Sepultura album at all — in actuality, it’s the first Soulfly album. Its plodding, unsophisticated, down-tuned inanity is one ass hair away from “Jump Da Fuck Up” — Cavalera Conspiracy’s Inflikted sounds more like a Sepultura album than Roots. Even the lyrics took a turn for the meatheaded! Compare, for example, the poetry of “Beneath the Remains”…
In the middle of a war that was not started by me
Deep depression of the nuclear remains of the nuclear remains
I’ve never thought of, I’ve never thought about
This happening to me
Proliferations of ignorance
Orders that stand to destroy
Battlefields and slaughter
Now they mean my home and work
Who has won?
Who has died?
…with the “poetry” of “Roots Bloody Roots”:
I believe in our fate
We don’t need to fake
It’s all we wanna be
Watch me freak
Watch me freak? Seriously, bruh? How many drafts do you think that took? What variations were considered and discarded that they settled on “watch me freak” as the best possible option for whatever it is they were trying to express? How can anyone be expected to take this album seriously in a world where the same band has given us such majestic releases as Arise and Chaos A.D. — the latter of which, by the way, is basically a much, MUCH better version of Roots???
Sepultura made multiple classic albums. But Roots is not one of them.